The Biden Administration’s Decision to Include Cluster Bombs in the US Weapons Package for Ukraine

Illustration of cluster bombs and armored vehicles symbolizing the U.S. weapons package for Ukraine

In a significant announcement on Friday, the Biden administration revealed its plan to include cluster bombs, armored vehicles, and air defense missiles worth $800 million in the upcoming weapons package for Ukraine. President Joe Biden acknowledged the controversial nature of these weapons but emphasized the importance of supporting Ukraine’s ammunition supplies while preserving U.S. inventories. The administration’s decision comes after careful consideration of Ukraine’s ongoing attacks and the need to address the humanitarian concerns associated with cluster bombs.

The Biden Administration’s Justification

President Joe Biden, in an upcoming interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, expressed his acknowledgment that it took some time to be convinced to provide cluster bombs to Ukraine. However, he highlighted the critical need to support Ukraine in the face of relentless attacks using cluster munitions with high dud rates. Biden emphasized the urgency of addressing this issue to prevent further harm to Ukrainian civilians.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan also responded to humanitarian concerns about the use of cluster bombs by underscoring the necessity of providing Ukraine with artillery. He acknowledged the risks associated with cluster munitions but emphasized the greater danger posed by Russian forces if they were to overrun Ukrainian positions without sufficient artillery support.

Understanding Cluster Munitions

Cluster munitions are designed to target multiple locations simultaneously by dispersing explosive “bomblets” over a wide area. While effective in combat situations, they pose a significant risk to civilians and unintended targets due to their indiscriminate nature. Both Ukraine and Russia are actively using these weapons, resulting in the loss of innocent lives. Human Rights Watch reported that Ukrainian cluster munitions caused the deaths of at least eight civilians in Izium last year.

Modern Cluster Munitions with Reduced Dud Rates

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for defense policy, assured reporters that the U.S. would provide Ukraine with modern cluster munitions featuring dud rates below 2.35 percent. This reduced failure rate increases the effectiveness and safety of the weapons when deployed. Additionally, the Pentagon obtained written assurances from Kyiv that the cluster bombs would not be used in urban areas populated by civilians. The aim is to minimize the risk to innocent lives while supporting Ukraine’s defense capabilities.

International Context and Stance of the United States

It is important to note that the United States is not a party to the 2010 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is an international ban signed by more than 100 countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that Russia initiated an unprovoked war against Ukraine and could end it by withdrawing its forces and ceasing the attacks on Ukrainian cities and people. Until then, the United States, along with its allies and partners, will continue to stand united with Ukraine.

Approval of Cluster Munitions Following Repeated Requests

This decision to include cluster munitions in the U.S. weapons package for Ukraine marks another instance of the U.S. eventually approving weaponry after repeated requests from Kyiv. Initially hesitant due to the risks associated with civilian casualties and Ukraine’s rapid use of weapons, Washington ultimately recognized the urgent need to address the ongoing conflict and provide support to Ukraine’s defense efforts.


The Biden administration’s decision to include cluster bombs in the weapons package for Ukraine reflects a strategic move to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities against Russian aggression. While acknowledging the risks associated with cluster munitions, the administration highlights the urgent need to prevent further harm to Ukrainian civilians. By providing modern cluster munitions with reduced dud rates and securing assurances regarding their deployment, the aim is to strike a balance between supporting Ukraine’s defense and mitigating civilian harm.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why did the Biden administration decide to include cluster bombs in the weapons package for Ukraine?

The decision was made to support Ukraine’s ammunition supplies and bolster their defense capabilities in the face of ongoing attacks using cluster munitions. President Biden stressed the importance of preventing further harm to Ukrainian civilians while preserving U.S. inventories.

2. Are cluster munitions harmful to civilians?

Yes, cluster munitions pose a significant risk to civilians due to their indiscriminate nature. They disperse bomblets over a wide area, which often fail to explode on initial impact, resulting in unexploded ordnance that can harm civilians, especially children, for decades after a conflict ends.

3. How is the United States addressing humanitarian concerns regarding cluster bombs?

The Pentagon will provide Ukraine with modern cluster munitions featuring reduced dud rates, making them less likely to fail when deployed. Written assurances have also been obtained from Kyiv, ensuring that the bombs will not be used in urban areas populated by civilians.

4. Is the use of cluster munitions by Ukraine justified?

The administration argues that Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions is a response to Russia’s prior use of tens of millions of bomblets across Ukrainian territory. The goal is to prevent Russian forces from winning the war and to minimize civilian harm while Ukraine continues to face aggression.

5. What is the stance of the United States on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

The United States stands united with Ukraine and its allies and partners against Russian aggression. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and end the brutal attacks on Ukrainian cities and people to bring an end to the conflict.

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